Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Eve of Destruction

Written and first recorded by P.F. Sloan (1965).
Hit versions by The Turtles (1965 |US #100 1970), Barry McGuire (US #1/UK #3/CAN #1/GER #6/NOR #1 1965)
Also recorded by Jan & Dean (1965).

From the wiki: “‘Eve of Destruction’ was written by P. F. Sloan in mid-1964. Sloan was very successful during the mid-1960s, writing, performing, and producing Billboard top 20 hits for artists such as Barry McGuire, The Searchers, Jan & Dean, Herman’s Hermits, Johnny Rivers, The Grass Roots, The Turtles, and The Mamas & the Papas. He was also a session guitarist in the group of L.A. session musicians known as The Wrecking Crew, working with such well-known backing musicians as drummer Hal Blaine, guitarist Tommy Tedesco, bassist Joe Osborn, and bassist/keyboardist Larry Knechtel, among others.

“It was Sloan, while working with Barry McGuire, who created and played a guitar intro as a hook to a new song by John Phillips entitled ‘California Dreamin” that was first offered to and was first recorded by McGuire. The same backing track was used for the hit version by Phillips’ group The Mamas & the Papas, which led to Sloan becoming a regular in their recording sessions.

“‘Eve of Destruction’ was first offered to The Mamas & The Papas, who declined it. Then, it was presented to The Byrds as a Dylan-esque potential single (in the same vein as their cover of ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’), but they, too, rejected it. The Turtles, another L.A. group, who often recorded The Byrds’ discarded or rejected material, recorded a version instead. Their version was issued as a track on their 1965 debut album It Ain’t Me Babe, recorded before but released two months after McGuire’s single was released in August 1965. The Turtles’ recording would be eventually released as a single in 1970 and hit #100 on the Billboard Hot 100. ‘Eve of Destruction’ was also recorded by Jan & Dean for their album Folk ‘n Roll in 1965, in a failed attempt to remain relevant after the ‘surf music’ tide had receded.

“McGuire recalled years later that ‘Eve of Destruction’ had been recorded in one take on a Thursday morning, reading lyrics scrawled on a crumpled piece of paper. The vocal track was thrown on as a rough mix and was not intended to be the final version, but a copy of the recording ‘leaked’ out to a radio DJ, who began playing it. ‘Eve of Destruction’ was an instant hit and as a result the more polished vocal track that was at first envisioned was never recorded. The following Monday morning McGuire got a phone call from the record company at 7:00 am, telling him to turn on the radio – his song was playing. The single was on top of the Billboard Hot 100, at #1, within a month of its release. The song also topped the charts in Canada and Norway.

“Due to its controversial lyrics, some American radio stations, claiming ‘it was an aid to the enemy in Vietnam,’ and Radio Scotland, banned the song. It was placed on a ‘restricted list’ by the BBC, and could not be played on ‘general entertainment programmes.’

“Trivia: The Temptations’ song ‘Ball of Confusion (That’s What the World Is Today)’ mentions the song title. The song’s mention of Selma, Alabama pertains to the Selma-to-Montgomery civil rights marches and ‘Bloody Sunday’ outside Selma, Alabama, in March 1965. (The Jan and Dean version substitutes ‘Watts, California’ in the lyrics, in apparent reference to the Watts Riots of 1965.)”

The Turtles, “Eve of Destruction” (1965):

Barry McGuire, “Eve of Destruction” (1965):

Jan & Dean, “Eve of Destruction” (1965):

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